The Night I Fell in Love, recorded in 1984, was Luther Vandross's fourth album. But this New Yorker with the polished tenor had been in the music business since the early Seventies. He wrote a song for The Wiz; sang on, co-wrote and arranged David Bowie's "Young Americans" in 1975; toured as a background singer with Bette Midler, Chaka Khan and Carly Simon; recorded albums as a member of three bands; and did sessions with Barbra Streisand, Quincy Jones and others. He also sang a lot of ad jingles.
But when he recorded his own albums, Vandross says he "got tired of going into the same studios, driving up the same streets and going up the same elevators I had gone up during all my years of sessions. After a few albums, I said, 'There's got to be another way to record.'"
Vandross booked time at AIR Studios, on Montserrat, in the West Indies, bringing with him the same musicians he'd used since Never Too Much, his 1981 debut — bassist and coproducer Marcus Miller, keyboardist and arranger Nat Adderley Jr., drummer Yogi Horton and guitarist Doc Powell. He also enlisted Billy Preston on organ and singers Cissy Houston, Alfa Anderson of Chic and Darlene Love.
"We were out of town, so the band wasn't looking at their watches, having a 4:30 Pepsi-Cola jingle they had to go do," says Vandross. "Once you get someone away from that New York session mentality, their whole countenance relaxes and their guard comes down. They take off that bulletproof vest they've been wearing and give you the best that they've got.
"A lot of people go down there because of the comfort," Vandross continues. "There's a cook, there are lots of lounges. It's magnificent. Outside the control room is a big swimming pool on the side of a gigantic mountain that leads to the ocean. The mood it puts you in gives you a better perspective on your music."
Of the album's first single, the finger-popping "'Til My Baby Comes Home," Vandross says, "That was one of the baddest things on radio. You had a big pop element, without ignoring the soul element." Next was "Creepin'," a Stevie Wonder ballad from Fulfillingness' First Finale, followed by "If Only for One Night," a torchy Brenda Russell song Vandross heard Roberta Flack sing on tour.
The moody ballad "Wait for Love," Vandross says, "gets the most applause in concert. We tear that thing up." But the album's most startling song is "My Sensitivity (Gets in the Way)," a romantic's bald confession. "There are only two songs I've written that are absolutely personal — 'My Sensitivity' and 'Any Love' [the title track to his most recent album] — and if they apply to anyone else, that's a peripheral consideration."
Discussing the eight tracks on The Night I Fell in Love, Vandross says, "Yeah, that's a good album. There was something magical about the way everyone responded to it, which to this day I can't account for."